Sleep – C.L. Taylor

x298

Hello and welcome to my stop on the Sleep blog tour.

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

Sleep is the first C. L. Taylor book I have read and it certainly lives up to all the hype! The action in this book starts from the get go, with the main character, Anna, involved in a car accident. To escape her awful past, the nightmares caused by the accident and the mysterious (and creepy) notes she has been receiving, she relocates to a remote Scottish island to work in a hotel and have a fresh start. However, it seems her past is about to catch up with her.

I loved how much the island and the weather in particular became a character throughout this book. It is so atmospheric and it adds to the tension that builds until the very last page. The fact that the killer is inside the hotel, where all the guests and Anna are trapped due to the storm, is a brilliant concept. You change your mind throughout as to who the killer could be and I really liked this aspect of the book. It keeps you guessing until the end.

Each of the characters in the book have their own secrets and pasts that they are tying to come to terms with or hide. I thought this was a very clever part of the storyline as you’re never quite sure who is telling the truth or who you can trust. In a small hotel, in the middle of nowhere, with no contact to the outside world, relationships start to become fraught and trust becomes more important than ever.

Sleep is a psychological thriller at its best. It’s full of twists and turns and you’ll not be able to put it down until you turn the last page.

Suspenseful, tense and gripping.

Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon books for my review copy.

Sleep published on the 4th April 2019.

Advertisements

The Point of Poetry – Joe Nutt

The Point of Poetry Cover

Hello and welcome to my stop on The Point of Poetry blog tour. I’m really happy to be sharing an extract from this wonderful book with you.

 

Two

The Hawk

(1970)

George Mackay Brown (1921–96)

Poetry is undoubtedly best read aloud. Even an epic like Milton’s Paradise Lost becomes a whole different beast when you listen to it, and there are contemporary poets who argue that to get the full, unadulterated beauty of any poem you need to hear the  poet themselves read it. They probably also think Elvis is still alive. Anyone who has heard that astounding early recording of Tennyson intoning ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ like a midnight visitor at Ebenezer Scrooge’s house, or heard Jeffrey Archer read any of his own literary efforts, will have their doubts as well as their scars. Even Hilary Mantel’s admirable eloquence on the page can be a bit harrowing when you listen to the voice God gave her coming out of a radio. Just because you can write something doesn’t mean you can read it. But one of the reasons I’ve chosen ‘The Hawk’, by the Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, is because he is the exception that proves the rule. It is a gift to be able to read verse well and he had it, as well as an accent that is as wedded to his poetry as he was to his home. He spent almost all of his life in the small port of Stromness on Orkney’s mainland, apart from brief periods studying in Scotland. Few poets’ work is so deeply rooted in the soil of their birth.

I was lucky enough to spend many weeks in Orkney, staying in Stromness in a beautiful old house that had ships’ masts for beams and an ancient stone construction in the garden that was an old whaling inn. Every so often an unusually high tide would seep gently and silently up through the stone walls that pro- tected the house from the sea and flood the kitchen floor with crystal-clear, salty water. The owners kept all their kitchen equip- ment standing on hefty wooden boxes, just out of reach of these occasional inundations. Orkney is a windswept, treeless, remark- ably exhilarating corner of Great Britain.

‘The Hawk’ describes seven encounters in the bird’s life, on seven subsequent days, ending in its unremarkable death, shot by a crofter, Jock, concerned no doubt about his livestock. There are some spectacular birds of prey in that part of the world. The sight of large hen harriers, swooping low along fences and hovering over the heather, is not at all unusual. There are also large and aggressive great skuas, which although not hawks, are perfectly capable of killing a medium-sized mammal like a hare or rabbit and think nothing of driving you away with fierce clouts on your head with their flat feet. On one occasion on the island of Hoy, my springer spaniel picked up a huge, adult hare, still warm and limp, with a large hole in its flank I have no doubt was inflicted by a great skua. In remote fields, I’ve seen these huge birds shot dead, their massive wings stretched out, literally crucified onnbarbed wire fences. I imagine it’s because some crofters think that will deter others birds from attacking lambs or chickens.

Sitting on the small ferryboat returning to Stromness, the ferryman looked at the hare for a long time and eyed my dog suspiciously, who was bursting with pride, before furrowing his weatherbeaten brow and asking, ‘He’s a springer spaniel?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘But he’s really fast.’

‘The Hawk’ is a poignant little poem, capturing the bird’s rich life in one evocative encounter after another. A farmer’s collie protects a lamb, a group of twitchers point dozens of binoculars skywards at it, and it summarily disposes of a chicken, a rabbit and a blackbird before Jock puts an end to it without a second thought. Mackay Brown has that gift of so many great poets, a near-magical grasp of metaphor, so the chicken dies Lost in its own little snowstorm.

It’s a haggard old cliché that poets commune with nature. Wordsworth is imagined striding out, unsuitably dressed, head- first into a gale across some mountainous part of the Lake District, composing lines in his head, while Gerard Manley Hopkins goes into eco-despair over some spindly poplar trees someone cruelly chopped down without telling him. Less than ten minutes walk from where I am sitting and writing, in the corner of a large wheat field, shining in the August sun, is a tall, white alcove, open to the countryside it overlooks, a folly named locally as Cowper’s Alcove, after the poet and translator of Homer, William Cowper. He frequently sat in it and enjoyed the view across the fields to the villages beyond. The natural world is as natural a source of inspiration and subject matter for poets as is love or loss. Thomas Hardy can bring a stark, rocky pathway to life and Seamus Heaney can sweep you back with him to a childhood Irish bog so vividly that you can smell the peat. One of the greatest pleasures in reading poetry is that delightful sen- sation you get when a writer takes you with them somewhere else, somewhere often far more beautiful, vital and, hence, mem- orable than your geographical reality. It’s not a gift peculiar to poets, but they can do it in the blink of an eye and with far fewer words than most.

Perhaps it’s therefore no surprise that raptors seem popular with poets. Anyone who spends time in the countryside can’t but be impressed by the sight of any bird of prey hunting. Tennyson’s snapshot ‘The Eagle’ is as striking and succinct as the brush- work of an oriental calligrapher. Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘The Windhover’ is simply stunning in its capturing of the complex, distinctive manoeuvres of a kestrel in flight, quite an achieve- ment in a poem about Jesus Christ. Ted Hughes, in contrast, goes for the less exciting image of a ‘Hawk Roosting’, yet ends up turning it into the most frightening symbol of nature’s utter thoughtlessness and amoral beauty. George Mackay Brown’s treatment, is workaday, matter-of-fact, a relaxed acceptance of life as he knew it was lived in Orkney. His hawk is just one character in an everyday Orcadian story.

One of the most consequential aspects of contemporary living is that quite recently mankind turned a historic corner and for the first time in human evolution, most of us now live in cities. If you are one of those fortunate individuals for whom the four seasons isn’t a hotel chain or a vintage rock band, then you will probably find ‘The Hawk’ and the entire genre of natural poetry it belongs to easier to read and more appealing. If the closest you come to the natural world is gazing out of a train window at uncontrolled and unidentifiable vegetable matter interspersed with leftovers from Network Rail as you commute to the office every morning, then you may well struggle. But then that’s one reason why I wrote this book. Wordsworth striding up that hill and Gerard Manley Hopkins blubbing at his pet poplar stumps were doing something we all probably need but most of us fail to do. They were thinking deeply about the physical and intellectual world in which every second of all our lives is spent. And wal- lowing up to their necks in it, swimming around in all that fresh air, low cloud and frolicking fauna, is one of the most powerful ways to link the two, the physical and the intellectual.

I, for one, am grateful to those who do haul their backsides out there in all weathers, amidst all that vigour and vitality, and write about the world we share with those other life forms in verse. I know it’s not something I can do and I also know that there are poets whose reflections on what they see and experience crashing through the heather, or sitting beneath lofty foliage, can enrich my own world view. One of the most persuasive art theorists I have ever read, the Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovskii, argued that art existed ‘so that stones may be made stony’. The poet’s skill is in making us look at the world anew, through different, less tainted lenses. Everyday life corrodes things, Shklovskii argued. It neuters and greys-out things, renders them dull and uninspiring, whether they are the simplest of material objects, or the most subtle of emotions. All succumb to the same erosion. Poets are nature’s art restorers.

‘The Hawk’ doesn’t apotheosise the bird. George Mackay Brown isn’t Albrecht Dürer painting a young hare so lifelike you sense its timidity. For him the bird is an everyday sight, some- thing to be seen seven days a week, like the sea or the heather outside his home. What strikes me about the poem is the calm acceptance of death. He weaves it into the rhythm and fabric of the verse without fuss or drama. It’s the natural conclusion to a life led killing other things, neither sad nor tragic, just real. But like all great firework displays, something special is saved for the end and he gives us the space and quiet that follows to think about the poem’s only human character, Jock, and the reason or lack of reason that makes him lift that gun so nonchalantly. Without that pensive ending,‘The Hawk’ could so easily become every urban environmentalist’s anthem, a plaintive hymn about man’s inhumanity to fluffy stuff.

 

The Hawk

On Sunday the hawk fell on Bigging And a chicken screamed

Lost in its own little snowstorm. And on Monday he fell on the moor And the Field Club

Raised a hundred silent prisms. And on Tuesday he fell on the hill And the happy lamb

Never knew why the loud collie straddled him. And on Wednesday he fell on a bush

And the blackbird

Laid by his little flute for the last time. And on Thursday he fell onCleat

And peerie Tom’s rabbit

Swung in a single arc from shore to hill. And on Friday he fell on a ditch

But the rampant rat,

The eye and the tooth, quenched his flame. And on Saturday he fell on Bigging

And Jock lowered his gun

And nailed a small wing over the corn.

 

Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and to Unbound for a copy of the book.

Follow the rest of the tour this week!

FINAL Point of Poetry Blog Tour Poster

Top 10 Books – 2018

From the Corner of the Oval Office

image

I was genuinely sad when I’d finished reading this. It’s a book I didn’t know I needed to read, but one I really needed to read! If you get the chance to see Beck Dorey-Stein talk about her book, then go!

 

Daisy Jones & The Six

image-1

Sometimes a book comes along that you love heart and soul. Daisy Jones & The Six is that book. I adored it!

 

The Possible World

image-2

I don’t even have the words to say just how incredible this book is! The last line is one of my favourite ever written. It will stay with me always.

 

Dear Mrs Bird

original_400_600

Such a wonderful book, I absolutely LOVED it! I miss Emmy and Bunty and can’t wait for book two.

 

Where The Light Gets In

image-3

Where The Light Gets In broke and mended my heart. I sobbed through the last few chapters! A lovely, heart-warming, comforting book.

 

The Lost Man

the-lost-man

I raced through this book in two days, it’s engrossing and completely unputdownable! And, dare I say it, better than The Dry!

 

Sal

9781786891877

I loved this book. It’s full of hope, sisterhood, humanity and humour. Of one my favourite debuts this year.

 

The Chalk Man

image-4

I loved everything about this book It’s creepy, tense and wonderfully 80s! I can’t wait for book two.

 

The Smiling Man

image-5

This book is just brilliant. If you enjoyed Sirens, then you’ll enjoy this more. A gritty, crime noir. Roll on book three!

 

The Woman in the Window

9780008234157

An incredible book. I held my breath through the last few chapters! So, so good!

Good Samaritans – Will Carver

GOOD SAMARITANS AW PR1.indd

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans. But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home… And someone is watching… Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

Good Samaritans is one of those books where you tell yourself you’ll just read one more chapter and know that you have no intention of reading just one more chapter. It sucks you in from the very start, with its very cleverly crafted storyline, which follows insomniac Seth Beauman, his wife Maeve and suicidal Hadley Serf.

The characters are brilliantly developed. They’re likeable (or so you think) but also hateable and you do find yourself sympathising with them, until a massive plot twist changes everything and then you find yourself shouting out a loud ‘nooooooo’ at your book and you’re left wondering how you could have ever felt sorry for them.

I’ve not read anything quite like this book for a long time. It’s so twisty and keeps you guessing throughout. Who do you trust? Who don’t you trust? It’s completely engrossing and once the pace picks up you’ll be thrilled, in more ways then one!

Although very twisted and graphic in parts, the story is also funny and you’ll find yourself laughing out loud on several occasions. It’s hard to go into too much detail without giving anything away, but this is a book with characters who are filled with desperation, obsession and lust. Lots of lust. They have more in common with each other than they would like to admit and this is what drives the plot forward to the very twisted ending.

Good Samaritans is a deliciously dark, dirty, domestic noir and you’re going to love it!

Thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the tour invite and review copy.

Good Samaritans publishes on the 15th November.

Keep following the tour this month, below!

IMG_1731

Paris in the Dark – Robert Olen Butler

9781843448945

To celebrate the publication of Paris in the Dark and the start of the blog tour, I’m kicking off with a giveaway!

Autumn 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission. Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees? And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book, head over to my Twitter account here.

And be sure to follow the rest of the tour over the next few weeks!

Paris In The Dark Blog Tour Poster

 

Doll House – Ashley Lister

Doll House Cover

Welcome to my stop on the Doll House blog tour. I’m excited to shared an excerpt of the book with you!

 

High atop a hill in the centre of Sandalwood village, visible from every twist and turn that John’s car took, there stood a decrepit, gothic building.  With the fading twilight behind it the house looked like something where the Addams Family would live, or the home of Norman Bates.  It was tall, dark and so obviously spooky Ben thought it could have been snatched from the opening credits of a Scooby-Doo cartoon.  It was easy to imagine a flutter of black bats or a white-sheet ghost flapping from the high-arched doorway or one of the sinister upper windows.  Ben didn’t want to be intrigued but he couldn’t help wonder about the building.

“Where are you taking me?”

“You sound like a fucking kidnap victim,” John yawned.

“It worries me that you know what kidnap victims sound like.  Where are you taking me?”

“I told you where I’m taking you,” John spoke with weary resignation.  “For the next three months I’ll be giving you what every lazy writer needs.  I’m putting you in my personal country cottage.  You’ll have the solitude and the isolation necessary to finish your latest novel.  I’m taking you back to your writing career.”

Ben stared out of the window.  He scowled at the sign saying WELCOME TO SANDALWOOD.  They drove past a cemetery-fringed churchyard, a police station and a pub.  He saw a library and a pair of shops that were closed at this late hour of a Sunday evening.  The houses they passed, all yellow stone beneath slick slate roofs, were packed tight together and lurked behind prettily floral front gardens.  As the darkness took hold, the streets were lit by the archaic yellow glow of mock-Victorian streetlamps.  Ben thought it was the sort of location that would likely have village fetes, a secret history of animal sacrifice and some sort of deserved reputation for bestiality or inbreeding.  Or maybe both.

“I don’t want solitude and isolation,” Ben grumbled.  “I want alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and maybe some class B drugs.  Those are the things that help me write.”

“Yeah,” John agreed.  “You’ve had those for the last year and we’re still no closer to seeing the final book in your trilogy, are we?”

Ben continued to stare out of the window.  Sandalwood looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.  He could see none of the familiar signs he would have expected telling him there was either a bank, a McDonalds, an ASDA or a Carphone Warehouse lurking on the high street.  He was beginning to suspect that the two shops, the library and the police station might well have been all of Sandalwood’s high street.  It was, he thought, something akin to third world deprivation.  With his heart racing he peered more furiously out of the window and tried to see something that suggested they were still in the twenty-first century.

“Where is this place?”

“This is Sandalwood,” John said.  “You head up north for a couple of hours past Birmingham and then you turn left for a bit.  What does it matter where it is?”

Ben shrugged.  He stopped himself from saying that it mattered if he was going to try and escape.  He was still staring out of the window but the light had faded so much now he was treated only to glimpses of his own unkempt reflection.

There was a week-old beard dirtying his jaw.  His hair was an untidy tangle beneath the cowl of his oversized hoodie.  His eyes were hidden in deep shadows borne from too many late nights and too much excess.  With high cheekbones and an unlined brow it had once been a handsome face but now it looked like the reflection of an ailing party animal.

An ailing party animal that needed a kindly vet to end its suffering.

He pushed that thought aside.  Not only was it depressing but it was a cheesily extended metaphor that made no sense.

John pulled the car off the road and onto a driveway. to a halt outside a pair of tall, imposing gates.  He stepped out of the vehicle and stood illuminated in the headlights as he fumbled with a lock and chain.  He was an angular man: tall and slender and unnatural in his gait.  In his corduroy slacks, sports jacket and a Harris Tweed flat cap, he looked like a man who knew how to dress for the countryside even if the environment seemed not quite right for him.

The Daimler’s engine continued to purr softly.

The chill of the encroaching night crept into the vehicle and began to caress Ben’s cheeks and hands.  He hadn’t realised how warm and comfortable the journey so far had been and the sinister chill of the evening was unnerving.

This is your last chance, Ben thought to himself.  If you want to get back to the city, and escape from this three-month exile to the middle-of-fucking-nowhere, this is your last opportunity to steal John’s car and drive away from here.

He didn’t act on the idea.

He had nowhere to go and no reason to escape.  If he didn’t write the final book in the trilogy he knew he could give up on any hope of ever writing again for publication.  If he stole his agent’s car it would likely put an end to their working relationship and Ben knew, afterwards, he would be lucky to be left with the option to self-publish on Amazon.

John climbed back into the car, shivering a little as he settled himself into the driver’s seat.  “It’s nippy out there,” he grumbled.  He slammed the door shut and then drove the car slowly up the driveway.  “I’m hoping it will be warmer in the house.”

Overhanging trees made the route a dark tunnel.  Ben could hear the scratch of talon-like branches snatching at the paintwork of the car. The tyres crunched at loose gravel.  Noisy shards of the road were ripped from the ground and spat up at the metalwork beneath his feet.

“You’ve got property with a driveway?” Ben muttered.  “You must be loaded.”

John laughed.  “We’re up north.  You could buy this entire village for the same price as some garden flat in London with an attractive postcode.  If this place was really valuable do you think I’d be using it as a dumping ground for fuck-up writers who can’t honour a simple contract?”

“Don’t bother sugar-coating those thoughts.  Tell me how you really feel.”

John parked outside the cottage.  The building had only been visible in glimpses of headlamp beams as they approached but he could now see it was a majestic brownstone structure, set in its own grounds, with lights on in a handful of the windows.  At one of the upper windows he thought he saw the movement of a figure, although he wasn’t sure if that was simply a trick of his imagination or a passing leaf shed in the early autumn fall.

As though reading the unease in his expression, John said, “The lights are on because Mrs Scum has been in here cleaning all day.”

“Mrs Scum?”

John shrugged as he made his way to the rear of the vehicle and retrieved John’s suitcase.  “That’s probably not her real name,” he called.  “She’s the cleaner.  I never bothered learning her real name.  I figured Mrs Scum worked as a suitable nom de guerre.

“Classy,” Ben muttered.

John made a sound of indifference as he hefted a suitcase and a rucksack from the boot of the car and dropped them by Ben’s feet.  “Grab those and follow me,” he said, climbing the stairs that led up to the door.  “Let’s get you settled in.”

Ben did as instructed and followed.

He watched John slip a key into the main door and then push it open.  The scent of home-cooked food struck him as soon as he stepped inside.  The fragrance was so strong and appetising he felt weak with hunger and angry at himself for being so easily won over by a mere aroma.  He was salivating like a Pavlovian dog in a doorbell factory.

“Step inside,” John encouraged.  He seemed either oblivious to the smell or spectacularly unimpressed.  “Step inside and make yourself comfortable.  You’re going to be here for a while.”

 

Scared? Intrigued? Want to read more? Then follow the rest of the tour this month!

FINAL FINAL Doll House blog Tour Poster

Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on the tour and to Ashley Lister for the excerpt.

Doll House is published by Caffeine Nights and is available now.

11 Missed Calls – Elisabeth Carpenter

9780008223540

Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.
Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.

But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.

Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.

And then a body is found.

11 Missed Calls is a slow burner of a book, but suceeds in making you feel stressed and uncomfortable throughout. You’re constantly on edge and waiting for something to happen, you’re just not sure what.
The story is told through Anna in the present day and Debbie (her mother) in the 1980s. I thought this worked well and it added to the tension which slowly built throughout the book. You particularly feel for Debbie – is someone purposely causing her to feel like she is losing her mind or is there more to her mental health than is being realised by her husband and family?
The book is very female led, which I enjoyed. Many of the other main characters, in particular Anna’s husband and to some extent Debbie’s husband, were not likeable and I think this cleverly added to you not knowing who to trust.
There are plenty of red herrings in the book and the ending wasn’t what I was expecting.
11 Missed Calls is a claustrophobic, uncomfortable read and will appeal to fans of domestic thrillers.
Thank you to Sabah Khan for sending me a review copy.
11 Missed Calls is published by Avon and is available now.